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Monday, October 6, 2008

Death Magnetic: How can I be lost, if I've got nowhere else to go?

Last week I got myself a copy of the latest Metallica album (Death Magnetic). I've been following Metallica since the Autumn of 1991. That was a good year for rock; Nirvana's Nevermind, G'n'R's Use Your Illusions (I and II), and Metallica's Black Album stabbed a flag in the eye of 80's rock, and defined the genre for my generation (and launched Grunge and Thrash into the mainstream as well).

The Black Album is astonishingly good, but Metallica never really recovered from their success and it has remained a high point in their career. Of their albums since then, only S&M really merits a re-listen, and that's basically a greatest hits album (with generous doses of orchestral accompaniment).

Death Magnetic claims to recapture some of the magic of those glory days. The band has supposedly put their arguments behind them, and this is supposed to be a new start. This is supposed to be vintage Metallica.

So is it?

Well let's get something straight, Death Magnetic is no Black Album. When I first heard it I was a little disappointed, sure its not some good stuff on it, but nothing that matches the riff on Enter Sandman, nothing that gets under your skin like Nothing Else Matters, and nothing that has the anthemic qualities of Unforgiven. But as I have listened to it more and more, I've realised that actually this is still a really good album.

Its no Black Album - but then why should it be? This is a different band, a different time, and this is a different piece of work.

The band are obviously enjoying themselves, if you were being negative you might say that some of the songs go off the rails slightly and turn into a bit of a jam, but then you could just as easily say they are more complex - the album more textured - and that underneath the layers the quality might, just might, have returned.

Nirvana disbanded after Kurt Cobain's suicide in 1994, G'n'R were riddled with internal arguments and finally disintegrated in 1997, but Metallica carried on. There work may not have been as fine as it once once, but they carried on touring and making music, and I think that it has finally paid off.

Death Magnetic is its own album - and it's a return to a new form.

Metallica are possibly the finest metal band there has ever been. And now looking back at the Load's and Reload's I feel slightly St. Guilty :-/ After all, this is the band that produced the Black Album: so how could they be lost, when they had nowhere else to go?


Patrick said...

I havent heard death magnetic yet but im sure id like it since i thought st anger was good. Its nice and thrashy.

as for the greatest metal band ever im not at all convinced. for me its the americans looking after there own. My contenders for the thrown would be iron maiden for the masses or motorhead for the uneducated few :-). Of course motorhead are very different kettle of fish but with a front man like lemmy they can do no wrong

Dave Millard said...

You're quite right that I've gone over all Americana - put it down to the unexpected high of a good Metallica Album :-)

I'm also with you for the masses. Iron Maiden are genre defining, and more than hold up the flag for the UK. Where else does epic poetry become equally epic metal :-)